38

Limert Park

LP intro

 

Hey. Or should I say, konnichiha! Yes, we’re in Tokyo. Which I have to say is pretty damn exciting. But before I can leave our micro-sized apartment and launch myself on yet another unsuspecting populace (“You want to photograph my stockings?”) here’s the third and final LA story…

(Well, short story that is. I started late and finished early – and found the streets even more deserted of humankind than in the last two weeks. Grrr.)

Having ‘done’ Latino in week one and then artist/hipster last week, I wanted the final LA post to focus on a black neighbourhood. Which in LA means south – which in turn means potentially dodgy as. My inner thrill seeker was all, yeah, go to South Central (as in riots), go to Compton (as in hip hop NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’).

But when I mentioned this to people, they’d be all, “honey, I’m black and I wouldn’t even go there”.

Bravely/stupidly I ignored their advice. But aside from snapping a few churches and a man called Clyde, I didn’t dally – not because I felt unsafe but because it was kind of nondescript.

I finally ended up just south-west of downtown LA in a black neighbourhood called Limert Park, the ‘centre of African-American culture’. While I completely failed to capture said culture in the five seconds I spent there, I did stumble on an interesting church congregation and a couple of cars…

 

Part 1: You gotta have faith

While I’m not religious, I do love a black church – like the one I met sweet Flossie at in NY.

So I went in search. Starting with a couple of tiny, almost hand-made looking churches in South Central…

 

 

hand-made churches, South Central :: 1

hand-made churches, South Central :: 1

 

 

 

 

hand-made churches, South Central :: 2

hand-made churches, South Central :: 2

 

 

 

Coco and I stuck our noses in the church above – where we met Tasha, below – before being given the third degree by one of the organisers. We were in South Central I guess…

 

 

Tasha inside God's Tabernacle of Faith

Tasha inside God’s Tabernacle of Faith

 

 

 

 

Then it was onto Limert Park. Third time lucky…

 

 

an unlikely looking church - Brenda, Casandra and Kelvin outside New Life Ministries

an unlikely looking church – Brenda, Casandra and Kelvin outside New Life Ministries

 

 

 

 

Unlike the two South Central churches we’d seen, New Life Ministries looked nothing like a house of worship. I would’ve driven straight past it in fact had it not been for the intensely bright LA sun, lighting up the canary yellow outfit worn by a member of the congregation, Casandra. This is what caught my eye…

 

 

lit up by the sun - Casandra

aglow – Casandra

 

 

 

 

I circled back, raced out of the car and found Casandra – “You, madam, are a vision. May I take your photograph?”

As I walked into the small room, I quickly realised Casandra wasn’t the only vision. Here was a handful of people who took their Sunday best seriously…

 

 

"We're part of the Pentecostal church"

“We like to dress up”

 

 

 

The colours and patterns were even more intense when they stood or sat near the door’s blinding light.

 

 

the big cheese - Bishop Hutchins

the big cheese – Bishop Hutchins

 

 

 

 

retired banker, furniture liquidator and entrepreneur - 66 year old Casandra

retired banker, furniture liquidator and entrepreneur – 66 year old Casandra

 

 

 

 The incredibly friendly and warm Casandra explained that for her, church was everything.

 

 

"God is first in my life"

“God is first in my life”

 

 

 

 I suspect dressing up comes a close second.

 

 

and the fashion

and the fashion

 

 

 

 

"You should see what I'm wearing to church on Friday night"

“You should see what I’m wearing to church on Friday night”

 

 

 

 

"We've been best friends for 17 years" - Casandra and Brenda

“We’ve been best friends for 17 years” – Casandra and Brenda

 

 

 

 

The church is small – around 20 people – but it appeared to have at least three preachers as well as the Bishop. But just because you’re a holy man doesn’t mean you can’t look sharp…

 

 

off to another church - preachers George, Al and Phillip

off to another church – preachers George, Al and Phillip

 

 

 

 

steppin' out

steppin’ out

 

 

 

 

peach

peach

 

 

 

 

As I was photographing the guys, Brenda wandered over to them and suddenly burst into song – with the most beautiful voice.

 

 

gospel on the sidewalk - Brenda :: 1

gospel on the sidewalk – Brenda :: 1

 

 

 

 

gospel on the sidewalk - Brenda :: 2

gospel on the sidewalk – Brenda :: 2

 

 

 

 

gospel on the sidewalk - Brenda :: 3

gospel on the sidewalk – Brenda :: 3

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Random people in Limert Park

Starting with HD and Ishonay. HD told me he was a famous rapper. He had me going until I questioned him again – “Nah, I’m at school, studying to be a psychiatrist.”

 

 

"I'm a famous rapper…. okay, not really" - HD and girlfriend, Ishonay

“I’m a famous rapper…. okay, not really” – HD and girlfriend, Ishonay

 

 

 

 

"I'm studying to be a social worker" - Ishonay

“I’m studying to be a social worker” – Ishonay

 

 

 

 

I don’t know why I asked them to put their foreheads together – but later that day, just around the corner from where I photographed the couple, I found a similar image…

 

 

union

union

 

 

 

 

On another visit I met a gaggle of girls, living around the corner from the main street in Limert Park.

 

 

playtime

playtime

 

 

 

 

"hurry up, I'm getting squashed!" - Amelia, Tatiana and Kimberly

“hurry up, I’m getting squashed!” – Amelia, Tatiana and Kimberly

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Classic cars

You gotta have wheels in LA. Even if they’re small…

 

 

"You married? I gotta find a good woman to help me spend my money" - Clyde

“You married? I gotta find a good woman to help me spend my money” – Clyde

 

 

 

 

"Come up and see me sometime, I live here, in this building"

“Come up and see me sometime, I live here, in this building”

 

 

 

 

On our last visit to the area, after meeting Casandra et al at the church, Coco and I wandered over to Limert Park just before sunset – only to find that the place was in full swing, with a market and drum circle in the neighbourhood park, and a line-up of classic cars across the road from there. Suddenly, after days of nothing happening and no-one around, there was too much to shoot – the light was about to go so I chose the cars. But as soon we got over there, the LAPD turned up and told the cars to stop clogging the street and move on. I had time to take two or three shots only. Blah!

Los Angeles – a much more interesting city than I’d imagined but a bugger to photograph.

 

 

cruisin' :: 1

cruisin’ :: 1

 

 

 

 

cruisin' :: 2

cruisin’ :: 2

 

 

 

 

"Move your cars now or they will be towed" - LAPD

“Move your cars now or they will be towed” – LAPD

 

 

 

 

LA passions

LA passions

 

 

 

 

Part 4: The woman in the red turban

So that was Limert Park. But before we leave the neighbourhood I want you meet one last person – 80-something Margaret. It was her red turban that first attracted me but it’ll be her blue eyes that I’ll always remember. That and her cussin’.

 

 

the red turban - Margaret

the red turban – Margaret

 

 

 

 

"I don't take no BS from no-one" - Margaret

“I don’t take no BS from no-one” – Margaret

 

 

 

 

dear Margaret, may a palm tree by the ocean come your way one day

dear Margaret, may a palm tree by the ocean come your way one day

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

As I said, it was a particularly short week which meant hardly any time at all to explore – I barely scratched the surface of Limert Park and wished I could’ve seen more. But I loved meeting Casandra and her congregation, as well as feisty Margaret. And those cars. Petrol guzzlers they may be but they are just so cool.

 

 

adios LA

adios LA

 

 

 

 

Coco and Casandra

Coco and Casandra

 

 

On the ‘home front’

When I arrived in LA, my opinion of the city was pretty low – a gateway to somewhere else much more appealing or a necessary stop-over on the way back to Australia. Three weeks later I’m starting to realise that it’s a city that requires much peeling back of its layers to reveal its full charms. LA – it’s not a dump (or the moon) – it’s an onion.

Many thanks to our friends, Fiona, Steve, Katie and Jacob. And to Esmeralda, our GPS – I’m not kidding when I say I could not have survived LA without you.

So, adios LA and konnichiha Tokyo! As soon as I hit ‘Publish’ on this post, Coco and I will be out the door. Having never been here before there is much to explore. I can’t wait to show you…

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Shirl and Vaughan

See you next week.

 

37

Echo Park

EP intro

 

Week two in LA and we’re heading just north of downtown to Echo Park.

A neighbourhood that, pre-WWI, was the Hollywood of LA, the place all the film studios called home. Charlie Chaplin, Westerns etc.

After the ‘white flight’ post-WWII, Latinos and gangs moved in but more recently in the last decade it’s been artists and hipsters, seeking a cheaper alternative to neighbouring uber-hip Silver Lake.

Echo Park’s main drag is on Sunset Boulevard, which, despite all the romantic imagery those two words conjure up, is pretty run-down in parts, with the occasional hipster-friendly shop or cafe. Much like Sydney’s Paramatta Road, around Annandale, for example. The hilly bits above Sunset, on the other hand, reminded me of some parts of Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Now, apparently it’s still a real mix of people but truly, everyone we met – the non-Latinos at least – were all writers, musicians or actors.

But by “everyone” I mean, ooh, maybe ten people. As the guy in the bookshop explained, LA isn’t a “sidewalk culture” (okay, maybe Venice Beach is, but not here).

In other words, people were very thin on the ground, literally.

So, given the lack of bods and the fact we’re in the land of make believe – and that Echo Park has some relationship of one kind or another with various LA writers like Raymond Chandler and Bukowski – I decided this post would be a little different…

Lights, camera, action…

 

FADE IN

Irene, a passionate landscape architect and vintage collector from Arizona, has arrived in LA to pursue her dream of becoming a famous actress. She narrates her story…

 

 

I had come to LA to become a big time actress

I had come to LA to become a big time actress.

 

 

 

 

Sure, I loved my plants and my vintage clothes but I wanted fame

Sure, I loved plants and my vintage clothes but I was hungry for fame.

 

 

 

 

I got me a place in West Hollywood, just big enough to fit me and my precious wardrobe

I got a place in West Hollywood, just big enough to fit me and my precious wardrobe.

 

 

 

 

But lady luck didn’t do me any favours and I had to move my stuff to cheaper digs at Echo Park

But Lady Luck didn’t do me any favours and I had to move my stuff to cheaper digs at Echo Park.

 

 

 

 

I liked Echo Park more anyway, the folks were less uptight there.

I liked Echo Park more anyway, the folks were less uptight there.

 

 

 

 

But my dream of making it in Hollywood was going nowhere fast.

But my dream of making it in Hollywood was going nowhere fast.

 

 

 

 

Then one day I got a call from a big shot agent. Come up to Silver Lake and we’ll talk, he said.

 

 

I tossed my vintage bag in my 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and headed up Silver Lake Blvd

I tossed my vintage bag in my 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and headed up Silver Lake Blvd.

 

 

 

 

Soon as I stepped out of the car a hideous creature lurched at me - “Can I give you a hand, muhahaha!”

Soon as I stepped out of the car a hideous creature lurched at me – “Can I give you a hand, muhahaha!”

 

 

 

 

Then a woman who looked scarily like Frida Kahlo came out of the house but when I looked back she wasn’t there

Then a woman who looked like Frida Kahlo came out of the house but when I looked back she wasn’t there.

 

 

 

 

Suddenly from behind the Golden Barrel cactus a man leapt out with a gun.

Suddenly from behind the Golden Barrel Cacti a man leapt out with a gun.

 

 

 

 

The light was blinding but I could see he meant business.

The light was blinding but I could see this fella meant business.

 

 

 

 

I kicked him where it hurt and the gun landed near the cactus. I ran to the car and spe

I kicked him where it hurt and the gun landed near the cacti. I hightailed it to the car and sped off.

 

 

 

 

Who wanted me dead? Was it the Karate Kid, the proud Chicano who didn't like the hipsters moving into Echo Park?

Who wanted me dead? Was it Karate Kid, the proud Chicano who didn’t like the artists moving into Echo Park?

 

 

 

 

Or was it one of my ex-lovers, like moody Mike?

Or was it one of my ex-lovers, like moody Mike?

 

 

 

 

Or his jealous girlfriend who lived down the road at Silver Lake Palms?

Or his jealous girlfriend, lonely Lola, who lived down the road at Silver Lake Palms?

 

 

 

 

Or my other men, Eddie, Bill, Jack (I'd been busy).

Or my other fellas, Eddie, Bill and Jack (I’d been busy).

 

 

 

 

Maybe it was Philip, the landscape gardener who felt threatened by my knowledge of Euphorbia cacti

Maybe it was Philip, the landscape gardener who felt threatened by my knowledge of Euphorbia cacti.

 

 

 

 

I started having nightmares of finding a skeleton in the boot of a car.

I started having nightmares of finding a skeleton in the boot of a car.

 

 

 

 

I'd recognise those teeth anywhere, it was sweet John, the musician who lived next door to me!

I’d recognise those teeth anywhere, it was sweet John, the musician who lived next door to me!

 

 

 

 

My nightmares were also filled with ghoulish faces.

My nightmares were also filled with ghoulish faces.

 

 

 

 

I saw ancestors I didn’t know I had, and made offerings like they do in Mexico.

I saw ancestors I didn’t know I had, and made offerings like they do in Mexico.

 

 

 

 

In the nightmares I was Cuban so I set up coffee and a cigar for my dad.

In the nightmares I was Cuban so I set up coffee and a cigar for my dad.

 

 

 

 

And chrysanthemums for my mum.

And chrysanthemums for my mum.

 

 

 

 

And I prayed and wept at their graves.

And I prayed and wept at their graves.

 

 

 

 What did it all mean?

 

 

What did it all mean? One night at the Gold Room I met a woman with a quote from Bukowski tattooed on her arm, 'Don't Try'

Then one night at the Gold Room I met a woman with a quote from Bukowski tattooed on her arm, ‘Don’t Try’.

 

 

 

 

Suddenly it all made sense. Later that night I met a man who smoked a pipe. It was love at first sight

Suddenly it all made sense. Later that night I met a man who smoked a pipe. It was love at first sight.

 

 

 

 

The fact he smoked a vintage Corn Cob pipe just made me love him even more.

The fact he smoked a vintage Corn Cob pipe just made me love him even more.

 

 

 

 

On a stormy night over a bottle of bourbon at the Olive Motel we made plans to live a life together

On a stormy night over a bottle of bourbon at the Olive Motel we made plans to live a life together.

 

 

 

 

Two days later we got hitched at the local church.

Two days later we got hitched at the local church.

 

 

 

 

We invited everyone from Echo Park, including Juan the fruit guy.

We invited everyone from Echo Park, including Juan the fruit guy.

 

 

 

 

We both loved vintage as well as plants so we decided to start up a business together combining the two

We both loved vintage as well as plants so we decided to start up a business together combining the two.

 

 

 

 

Unlike my acting career, our business, ‘vintage + plants’, took off like my Cadillac up Sunset Blvd

Unlike my acting career, our business, ‘vintage + plants’, took off like my Cadillac up Sunset Blvd.

 

 

 

 

And we bought a pug too. ‘Cos you gotta have a pug when you live in Echo Park.

And we bought a pug too. ‘Cos you gotta have a pug when you live in Echo Park.

 

 

 

 

The End.

The End.

 

 

 

 

CREDITS

Cast, in order of appearance:

Maya Stein (student and fifth generation of the original Mexicans in LA from the 1700s) in intro image

Irene (vintage mannequin), appearing as herself

Andy (musician) and injured dog Whelan, as themselves

Maria (unknown career), as Frida Kahlo

Matthew (pathology assistant), the guy with the gun, as the hit man (Yes, real gun, he has… three)

Gerado (17 year old student), as Karate Kid

Ned Casual (musician, actor, painter), as moody Mike

Rosie (from England, out here with punk rock dad), as lonely Lola

Unknowns as Eddie and Bill

Manuk (actor, photographer), as Jack

Unknowns as Ghoulish faces

Dominga Perez Padron and Jose Ramon Padron as dearly departed Mexicans in photographs at an early Day of the Dead celebration in Echo Park

Eric (stage actor, newly arrived from Chicago) as the Man who Smoked a Pipe

Unknown as Juan.

Bronson the pug as himself.

 

COSTUME

All vintage clothing by Flounce Vintage, Echo Park.

 

The Wrap

Pretty kooky huh? Well, silly it may be but it was kind of fun to do. I didn’t have the idea until after I’d shot 99% of the shots so it was like piecing a storyboard together, albeit with limited images.

To anyone who I photographed, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve cast you as a character in this strange little production. As I said, I didn’t know at the time that I was going to use your photos like this. Please email me if you’d prefer not to be involved. (I may then have to kill you off… oh dear, it’s all getting rather complicated…)

Anyway, to round out the picture of Echo Park, I should say that it has more than just seedy, run-down motels/apartment blocks (which I personally love for some reason). There’s a range of architecture there, from the grand Victorians in the area called Angelino Heights, to some nice Modernist homes. It also has a major sports stadium, a huge park and a lake that would be filled with lotus flowers if it weren’t for the fact it’s currently under renovation and looks more building site-ish than anything lovely.

 

 

 

playing dress-up at Flounce

playing dress-up at Flounce

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco had a ball at Echo Parks’ Flounce Vintage, trying on pretty much every pair of shoes in the place as well as all the lovely old hats. And she also loved all the dancing at the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration we stumbled on while we were in the neighbourhood.

But the real highlight of the week? Disneyland! She has my friend Fiona to thank for that – if it’d been up to me, we’d never have gone. But Fiona offered to take Coco and then I felt I had to go too, so off we all went, with Fiona’s 13 year old, Katie, in tow. How was it? Hugely fun. Except for Space Mountain. It was terrifying. Not the spooky imagery but the way you hurtled through complete darkness at unbelievable speed, violently jerking this way and that at every turn. Coco and I clung on to each other, me screaming “JUST SHUT YOUR EYES!” and Coco screaming back, “IT DOESN’T HELP!”, totally convinced she was about to be thrown out of the cart at any moment. I swear it was the most freaked out either of us have been since we left Sydney more than 10 months ago – at Disneyland!

This suburb has been brought to you by Triscia from Fresco Creative

See you next week.

 

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